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travler vs tourist feature

Traveler or Tourist? The Choice is Yours

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought.”
~ Matsuo Basho ~
Over the years I’ve come to the realization that the terms “tourist” and “traveler” are not as interchangeable as I’d once thought. The words, although similar, have a significantly different connotation. Why you’re traveling has a lot to do with how you’ll travel, and this will affect whether your trip is geared towards being a traveler, or merely a tourist.

Tourist vs Traveler - Tourist

It doesn’t take a sleuth to deduce who is a tourist and who isn’t

The TouristI came, I saw, I conquered,” could be their motto, as they breeze through each guidebook hot-spot on a non-stop, time-crushing tour. Their vacation is well-documented with photo sessions posing at more places they don’t enter than ones they actually do. When queried for details they can provide a basic gist, but nothing with any real depth. They barely scrape the surface of what cultural treasures await them in the midst of exploring the tourist traps instead of interacting with the people they’re around and environment that they’re in. They are typically distinguishable by their wardrobe (it doesn’t take a sleuth to deduce they’re not a native), and they are accompanied by city maps and guidebooks that they stop to read at inconvenient moments to other drivers and pedestrians, depending on their current wheeled or walking mode of transportation.

The worst thing about being a tourist is having others recognize you as a tourist.”
~ Russel Baker ~

Traveler vs Tourist - Traveler

Travelers connect easily with new people in their surroundings.

The TravelerWe travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us” is their mantra. They’re driven to connect more intimately with the people and aspects of their chosen location, and when they go home (if they go home), they’re carrying a greater knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of their surroundings. Their style is more likely to blend in with their environment. An outgoing and adaptable nature is intrinsic to their being, so when plans change at a moment’s notice, it’s no big deal. That person they’re sitting next to on the train or in a café is going to be chatting with them in no time like they were old friends. They may arrive as a stranger, but they leave with requests to stay in touch and come back soon.

When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.”
~ Clifton Fadiman ~
Each has something to learn from the other as the Traveler should not disdain the touted sights completely, because they’re popular for a reason, and the Tourist can take a lesson in awareness and spontaneity. Somewhere in the middle there’s a balance to be found that will provide an engaging and fulfilling trip, while also preserving a sense of relaxation and autonomy.

Tourists and Attractions

While the tourist’s focus is always on the next best thing, the traveler is living in the moment and intrigued with the world around them.

Travlers and Attractions

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
~ Miriam Beard ~
The tourist gets caught up in the momentum of completing their list. “I should see this, and go there” and verges on the edge of burnout. They forget that any vicarious experiences taken from their travels are less pertinent than ensuring that their own experience is a quality one. It’s no wonder they feel like they need a vacation from their vacation! When you look but don’t see; talk, but don’t speak; listen, but don’t hear, you’re bound to be left wondering what you missed.

Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”
~ Paul Theroux ~
The traveler can spend a week in Paris and not enter the Louvre once, because art isn’t really their thing, but on a high-note, met a couple at a café one morning who invited them over for dinner. They spent and evening drinking local wine, eating a delicious, Parisian home-cooked meal and engaged in diverse conversation. The traveler may fly into Melbourne, but after taking in a few city sights and attractions has no problem switching gears and setting out on a cross-country trip. They’ll drive the Australian coast in a motorhome rental and meet natives who’ll introduce them to the daunting and thrilling aspects of surfing..

The traveler returns with new perspectives and a renewed appreciation for what they’ve left and what they’re coming home to, plus an eclectic mix of travel narratives that will have you oohing, ahhing and even ewwing over, as you hear them. They’re refreshed and ready for whatever adventure is put in their path, and encourage you to create your own travel memories, instead of just dreaming through theirs.

Travel is the only thing that makes you richer.”
~ Unknown ~
We can all be travelers if we only make the time. I say “make” instead of “have” on purpose. There are a million-and-one excuses that we (yes, we), make up, as to why we can’t fulfill our travel dreams, whether it’s budget , time, or home life that we feel will be impacted if we do something for ourselves. Then we push the limit when we do carve out some time and lose the excitement and joy from stress and exhaustion, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Traveler vs Tourist Dream Travel

The travel dreams of tomorrow can be yours today!

As you’re planning your next vacation, I challenge you to reevaluate your priorities and decide where your interests really lie. It never hurts to do your homework and find out what kinds of touristy things are available, but leave the window of opportunity open to change your mind, and go with your passions. You’re not just funding a vacation, your investing in your physical, mental and emotional well being.

If you don’t have the time to do it right, when will you do it over?”
~ John Wooden ~
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